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The Guiness Book of World Records versus Baby It's Cold Outside! - Elf M. Sternberg
The Guiness Book of World Records versus Baby It's Cold Outside!
The Guinness Book of World Records was created to end bar fights.

The managing director of the Guinness Brewery realized that he could end the many loud and drunken conversations about who was the biggest, the fastest, the best, by literallly providing that information. In 1954, Guinness provided a thousand copies of its first edition to barkeeps across the United Kingdom. The 1955 edition sold 70,000 copies and the rest, they say, is history.

Before the existence of the Internet, there was friction involved in knowing things. If you wanted to know how many rivers there were in Nigeria, how many moons of Jupiter there were, or the airspeed of an unladen swallow, you might have an encyclopedia in your home. If that wasn't good enough, you might go the library, which required driving and wandering asking. Finally, you might just live with the ambiguity; you might just give up and say that the effort involved in knowing a thing was more than the knowing was worth.

Nowadays you just pull out your phone.

We are no longer willing to live with ambiguity. We just want to know and know, now.

The other day I heard a right-wing radio talk show host ranting about how "lefties" don't like the song "Baby It's Cold Outside." You know the song: a young man and woman are at his home, and he pressures her not to leave, coming up with all sorts of weather-related reasons why she shouldn't go out in the cold. It's more or less a given that she actually wants to stay with him, and by the end of the song has decided that the repercussions of staying aren't as serious as she made them out to be in the beginning.

For those people who are young enough to not remember why the Guinness Book of World Records exists, that sort of ambiguity isn't acceptable. They just want to know. That's the point of Consent Culture: you want to know if the other person is ready and enthusiastic, and then you're ready to go for it. Pressuring a woman to stay isn't cool. Not even a little bit.

The radio talk show host argued in favor of ambiguity. The "game" of seduction involves a little give-and-take, a little persuasion. If you take that away, sex becomes just a form of exchange, without the emotional commitment to one another that comes from shared indiscretion.

When we point out that "pressure" and "persuasion" are part of rape culture, such people as the talk show host get indignant. But ambiguity is deadly when lives are on the line, and rape, and accusations of rape, are both events that change lives for the far worse. Leaving no room for that kind of ambiguity is what consent culture is all about. And I don't believe that committing an "indiscretion" together leads to the kind of emotional closeness conservatives really want.

Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful

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